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NTSB Finds Systemic WMATA Safety Issues From Red Line Crash Investigations

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courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

Today in a five hour long hearing, (not including a one hour long lunch break) the NTSB released their findings on the 2009 Red Line crash. Chairwoman Hersman kick off the hearing with opening remarks that highlighted the thoroughness of the report, the importance of its findings and immediate need for WMATA to take action to rectify what Hersman called “WMATA’s anemic safety culture.”

As Tom pointed out earlier today, many of the findings had already been unearthed. NTSB Engineer Payan spent a good length of time both describing and fielding questions about the failures of the Automated Train Operation (ATO) system and the WEE-Z bond sensors that caused the first train to essentially disappear from the track circuitry sensors and made the second train speed up and, tragically, slam into the first train. Prior to the crash, circuit failures like this were happening so often that WMATA employees became desensitized to the alerts and would ignore them. More shocking is that since the crash, WMATA has identified about 290 track circuits capable of this same failure and has not replaced them. No word on if WMATA is currently paying more attention to the alerts. Continue reading

The Daily Feed, WMATA, WTF?!

NTSB: More Circuitry Failure

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‘tunnel’ courtesy of ‘volcanojw’

According to Dr. Gridlock today, the track circuit behind last month’s crash has apparently been failing to detect trains since a key component was replaced back in December of 2007. The NTSB also said that this component – a part of the WEE-Z bond – is the other end of the paired impedance bonds. The board had said previously it may have been the impedance bond at the other end of the circuit, the one that was replaced five days before the crash.

This new finding now begs the question of Metro: just how bad is their maintenance and trouble-shooting of the train protection system? And what, pray tell, will John “Baghdad Bob” Catoe, Jr. say next?

It’d better include the words “I’m sorry, DC.”

Talkin' Transit, The Features, WMATA, WTF?!

Talkin’ Transit: In the Dark

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‘Where To Set One’s Eyes’ courtesy of ‘Bogotron’

It’s been a month since the fatal Red Line crash outside of Fort Totten. You’d think a deadly event like that would force some changes over at Metro at how they do things, right? More accountability, more transparency, better oversight, more concern for public safety..

Initially, I was impressed on the fact that they were at least trying. Despite some hard questions. Now, however, I’m not so sure.

Everyone by now has heard about the Post’s pretty damning report regarding Metro and the continual widespread failure of track circuits on four of the five lines. Incredibly scary stuff; those circuits are used to keep track of trains, their speed and location. The failure of such a circuit seems to be the cause of last month’s accident – though the NTSB has not officially announced the actual cause. Metro rail chief Dave Kubicek has downplayed the Post’s report, saying that none of the problems detected are anything close to the track circuit problem at the crash site. He insisted again that “the rail system is safe” and that it’s “a gross exaggeration” to suggest it’s widespread.

What is troubling isn’t just the technology failure; it’s how Metro’s handling it and other issues that have popped up lately.

Continue reading

All Politics is Local, The Daily Feed, WMATA

Liveblogging the Metro Crash Hearing

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‘Eleanor Holmes Norton Schools Union Station Management’
courtesy of ‘lightboxdc’

Dr. Gridlock over at WaPo is liveblogging the congressional subcommittee hearing over the recent WMATA crash. We had a chance to submit some questions; hopefully we’ll see those brought up. So far, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a subcommittee member, has said that today’s hearing will make public all that is known now, allowing the public to separate urban legend from authoritative testimony.

Catch the latest updates over on Dr. Gridlock’s column.